Free your hidden memories from their dark and decaying box in your closet by converting your negatives and slides to digital files.
From holidays, family photos and vacations, your treasured memories remain hidden, stored away as slides or negatives. With computers, social media (#ThrowbackThursday or #TBT) and smartphones, memories are now easily accessible and sharable. We share four different ways to digitize converting, both slides and negatives to digital images, releasing those “analog” memories for future generations.
Send to a Professional
1. Have a Photo Lab Scan Your Slides and Negatives.
For as low as $1 each, our photo lab (TheDarkroom.com) can professionally convert your slides to digital image and scan your film negatives, upload them for web download and send you a CD or thumb drive with your scanned images. If you have a lot of slides, professionally digitizing your slides is much quicker and generally better than you will be able to do on your own. Here are some key points to consider:
Have an old roll of film to develop? We can help
- Price – For about $1 scan, you can select the images you want or just send images in bulk. If you have time, you can consider scanning them yourself. There’s a $10 minimum order.
- Quality – Our slide-scanning services can deliver very high quality scans of your slides that will look good even when printed in large formats. For old slides or negatives, The Darkroom slide scan technology reduces dust spots. A 35mm Kodachrome slide, if taken in focus and not damaged, should provide approximately a 20 megapixel image with a higher resolution scan.
More info on The Darkroom’s Scan resolution
- Prints – The Darkroom can also print your photos in a variety of sizes (4×6, 5×7, 8×10 and 11×14) and even apply your images to photo gifts, such as mugs, ornaments and aluminum art.
DIY – Do it Yourself Slide Scanning
2. Buy a Slide Scanner
While the quality is generally better with a professional scanning service and the task of scanning your own slides and negatives can be tedious and time consuming, there is a certain satisfaction and flexibility of doing it yourself… providing you have the time. Also, as part of the scanning process, you can screen your selects by discarding accidental photo misfires, redundant or poor subject matter images.
With a quick Google search, there are many of scanners with a wide range of quality, features and prices. Some features to consider when buying a slide scanner.
- Quality – Because you’re taking to the time to scan the slides and negatives, resolution is important. Check out the megapixel number of the scanner you’re interested in. They can range from 5 to 9 megapixels. Bigger is better, as they say: the greater the number of pixels, the larger print you can make from your slide.
- Speed – Inexpensive slide scanners require you to scan to your computer, one at a time. Consider this if you don’t want to give up a weekend. If it takes 30-60 seconds to scan per slide, naming and filing time, it can take a considerable amount of time to process a box of slides. Top quality 35mm slide and negative scanners have high speed mode scanning even at highest resolution around 7200 dpi. The high resolution scans produce larger files and so you need fast transfer rate to scanner’s internal memory or SD/SDHC card.
- Compatibility – Most scanners will work with new computers, whether Mac or PC, and some scanners don’t even require a computer. If you have an older computer, check the specifications and compatibility when considering a scanner.
- Comparison Shopping – With the internet now, it’s pretty much compulsory to do a little research prior to buying online. We would like to a comparison, but a link or a comparison of scanners will become quickly obsolete in this forum.
TIP: Check for photography rental companies in your area. Often they have professional grade scanners available for rent and may even offer “free weekends” if you rent on Friday and return “24 hours later” on Monday.
3. Use a Flatbed Scanner
A cheaper alternative is using a flatbed scanner for a decent (not great) way to digitize your slides or negatives. Because slides should be illuminated from behind, flatbed scanners capture reflected light from a document, so there will be inherent limitations in quality, lighting and resolution, likely requiring Photoshop or photo software to tweak cropping, brightness and contrast. To improve scan quality, you can create a cardboard adapter to reflect light from the scanner and back through the slide or negative (see below).
Make has instructions on making a simple cardboard adapter to capture the light from the scanner and reflect it behind the slide. How-To: Make cardboard adapter for scanning slides
For negatives, most image processing programs will have an ‘invert’ function that will reverse it from negative to positive.
4. Projecting Your Images
At this point we’ve gone from best, better, good and now we’re at the “will work” or “just okay” method. This technique is only for slides and is projecting your image and shooting it with your digital camera/smart phone. Set up your projector, screen, and tripod and manually focusing your digital camera to photograph the image as displayed on the screen.
- Use your smartphone. Use an photo editing program to adjust your image. While there are many available apps, Google’s SnapSeed app for iPhone does a great job.
- If using a better camera, try bracketing your image exposure with slower and faster shutter times and a fixed f-stop, and then compositing the picture with image software such as Photoshop. The resolution will still be compromised, but you may have better dynamic range.
35mm Slide Converter for Cellphone
Instructables has instructions on using a smartphone to convert 35mm slides into digital images using a PVC pipe and some tools. While we haven’t tested it, looks like it should work and capture decent images. Get instructions at Instructables.
Dave Dyer created a post on comparing the different methods of scanning slides. The article is old, but we feel the results are still valid and illustrates the differences in quality.
Comparing Methods to Digitize Slides